Pedestrianisation For the Win

Recent years have seen a growing awareness about the importance of how we use our cities for the benefit of all residents. The traditional approach of car-centric cities is falling out of favour and for good reason. A city built for vehicles is not a community-oriented city but we believe the future of our cities lies in rediscovering and rebuilding communities, both local and more global ones.

Believe it or not, pedestrianisation is a powerful tool when it comes to helping communities reclaim city streets and one that is gaining traction around the world. It is just one weapon in our arsenal of better urban planning, but it is quite a crucial one, and in many cities it is not necessarily as difficult to implement and maintain as previously thought. 

Yes, the concept itself is not without controversy, especially in busy cities where commuters are dependent on their cars for transportation. Pedestrianisation schemes can disrupt traffic, and popular routes through a city. They also need to be implemented carefully, with the needs of all stakeholders within a community taken into account, and with an emphasis on ensuring safe implementation. 

Despite the challenges, and the opposition from some quarters, there are plenty of global cities taking a chance on pedestrianisation in the interests of its local communities and residents. The need to bring back community at the heart of urban residents' lives seems to be emerging as a higher priority and cutting through all of the opposition.

London has started its crusade to restore its streets to its people with several pedestrianisation schemes, some of them temporary or part time, and some of them permanent. 

An example of a part time scheme is happening on Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets. Part time pedestrianisation schemes are sometimes the perfect compromise solution - allowing for the revival of community street spaces on the weekends and holidays, while allowing vehicles to have their streets back on working days. 

Brick Lane was originally pedestrianised back in 2020, when it was car free from August to November. This proved to be a boon for many restaurants along it, as they were given the option of introducing or extending their al fresco dining. Now they are going car free on weekends including Thursday and Friday evenings, as well as on bank holidays - allowing people to reclaim the streets for socialising and leisure.

The mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs best explains the thinking behind the scheme -  ‘It’s about promoting local business by allowing pavement dining. It’s about some evening and weekend road closures to allow people to mill around in one of the busiest shopping streets and leisure streets in the borough. But it’s about talking to local people and doing things that work […] It’s been a hard year for people in the East End, including our local businesses and we want the area to lift itself up and what we can do to help that is what we will do.’ 

It is also an important example of how pedestrianisation can be a flexible solution and one that takes into account the needs of all urban residents - from car drivers, to local businesses, to local residents looking for more places to mingle, socialise and get together within their own local area. Other schemes have been trialed across the city in Seven Dials, Stoke Newington Church Street and parts of Oxford Street. Many have proven to be a roaring success and are making many urban planners and local councils consider ways to make the schemes more permanent. 

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